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Volunteering with CFA FAQs

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Personal Requirements

Who can join?

The minimum age to become a CFA volunteer is 16 years (16 & 17 years olds will need parental consent). Some brigades also run a Junior Program for 11-15 year olds.

People from all walks of life become CFA Volunteers, including young people, women of all ages, active retirees and people from culturally diverse communities.

Can I still volunteer if I have a full time job or kids at home?

Yes, you can.

For firefighters (operational volunteers) most training and meetings are conducted on weeknights and/or weekends, and you can discuss with your local brigade when you would be able to attend incidents. Often employers release volunteers to attend incidents; however you will need to discuss this with them before you apply.

For support (non-operational) volunteers, apart from set meetings and events, the time you volunteer is often flexible and fluctuating, and will depend on your role, brigade and the time of year.

Are there any fitness/skill requirements?

Firefighting (operational roles) can involve strenuous and physically challenging activities, so a certain level of fitness is required to undertake this role. You can discuss this with your local brigade to determine your suitability for this role. Training in specific firefighting or other operational roles is provided.

For support (non-operational) volunteers - such as secretary, treasurer or communications - prior relevant knowledge is looked favourably upon. Specific CFA training will be available.

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Proximity to Brigade

Do I have to live or work in a CFA area to volunteer?

Generally you need to live or work reasonably close to your local brigade.

To join as a firefighter (operational volunteer), you must live or work close enough to your brigade to be able to get from your location to the brigade and then the incident. Brigades have requirements for how quickly they should get to an incident.

Support (non-operational) volunteers may live further away but are often preferred to be local to be able to attend meetings and events.
Some brigades allow flexible options such as seasonal or surge volunteering. Best to check with your brigade.

You may also be able to volunteer at other emergency services organisations which operate within the metropolitan area where CFA does not reach.

Do I have to live or work nearby the brigade all year round?

Specific availability arrangements need to be discussed with the brigade you are expressing your interest with. Some brigades allow seasonal volunteering to help with their fire season.

Where is my nearest brigade?

You can find your nearest brigade by putting your address into this map . CFA has over 1,200 brigades across the coasts, outer Melbourne, regional and rural Victoria..

You can find your nearest Junior Brigade (brigade which runs a junior program for 11-15 year olds) using this map.

What area does CFA cover?

CFA covers regional and rural Victorian property, as well as 60% of metropolitan Melbourne generally bordering the inner suburbs such as Dandenong, Eltham, Bayswater, Caroline Springs and Greenvale.

Melbourne’s inner suburbs are serviced by the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB), while Victorian State forests and National Parks are serviced by Forrest Fire Management (FFM).

You can view a map CFA and MFB boundaries.

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Availability

How many hours a week will I have to commit to?

The time commitment will depend on the individual brigade and the type of role that you choose, so it’s best to talk with your brigade for more information. There is a minimum attendance requirement at brigade meetings.

For firefighters (operational volunteers) regular training is required to ensure your acquired skills are maintained.  Frequency of training and incidents to attend varies between brigades.

For support (non-operational) volunteer roles, hours per week are likely to be flexible and fluctuating, and will depend on your role, brigade and the time of year.

My availability changes throughout the year, and week to week, can I still volunteer?

It is best to discuss your availability directly with your local brigade. CFA encourages flexibility for volunteers, and your level of involvement will depend on your personal availability together with brigade and community needs. Commitment to the brigade simply requires the time and skills that you can afford to give, yet firefighters (operational volunteers) could be called on at any time of the day or night.

It is common for brigades to have a set time for training and meetings, yet all differ. Quieter brigades may meet much less frequently.

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Volunteer Roles

What do volunteers do?

CFA Volunteers can be operational firefighters and/or provide non-operational support.
Some of the support (non-operational) roles include:

  • Relationships, engagement and education across local communities
  • Coordination of fundraising, campaigns, events and activities
  • Media, promotion and publicity
  • Administration, logistical and financial support
  • Brigade training and equipment maintenance
  • Brigade health and safety management
  • Community education and preparedness
  • Coordination of brigade meetings and representation of brigade in group meetings
  • Junior program leaders

Some firefighting and emergency (operational) roles include:

  • Attending fires – wildfires and structural
  • Conducting fuel reduction burns
  • Attending road accident rescues
  • Attending incidents involving hazardous materials
  • Attending other emergencies including flood assistance
  • Attending other types of rescue
  • Radio operators

Roles available will vary between brigades.

What is the difference between firefighting (operational) and support (non-operational) volunteers?

Firefighters (operational volunteers) respond to fire, road accidents and other incidents where potential or actual risks are posed to life and/or property. Operational roles may also involve management of vegetation, fire equipment and broader incidents. Many operational volunteers also undertake non-operational roles/positions.

Support (non-operational) volunteers do not fight fires, although support the brigade and community in a range of ways, including but not limited to fundraising, events, publicity, education, health and safety, treasury, administration and prevention and preparedness programs.

There are training and leadership options available to both operational and non-operational roles.

Can I do both firefighting (operational) and support (non-operational) roles?

Firefighters (operational volunteers) are able to also undertake non-operational roles (support roles) at their brigade.
Support (non-operational) volunteers do not have the training to attend incidents or fires, so cannot do operational roles.

It's possible to change your membership status between operational and non-operational.

One volunteer can take on multiple roles, depending on the brigade’s needs and the amount of time the volunteer has.

Do firefighters (operational volunteers) just attend incidents?

Brigades run regular training, meetings and events. Whilst firefighters (operational volunteers) may have a primary focus on responding to incidents, they can still participate in a range of other activities, including preparedness, prevention, community education and engagement, vehicle and building maintenance etc.
Some operational volunteers may spend more time training and volunteering in ways other than attending incidents.

Firefighters (operational volunteers) can undertake extra support (non-operational) roles at their brigade.

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Training

How long will firefighting training last for?

Compulsory "minimum skills" training for firefighters (operational volunteers) can take up to 6 months and no fires can be attended until this training is completed. In this initial training you will learn all the basic skills and safety requirements to be able to commence attending incidents.

Once you have completed this, brigades run training to maintain skills and learn new ones.

What will training involve?

Relevant to the role you choose, there are many different skills you can learn through CFA.

They could include general firefighting, fire safety awareness, community education and engagement, administrative tasks, endorsed truck licence, first aid, leadership training, communications, wildfire behaviour and suppression, map reading, radio communications and fire ground safety and other skills which may also be valuable to you.

Training can be conducted at your local brigade, delivered by CFA instructors at other locations, or at various training grounds around the state. Firefighter training times will differ between each brigade, but are generally held on a weeknight and/or weekend.

What development opportunities does CFA provide?

Our volunteers are offered a range of development opportunities such as formal training, scholarships, self-paced learning via online portals, mentoring and attendance at forums and conferences.

As opportunities become available they are advertised via field-based staff, in newsletters and CFA Online. The training that volunteers undertake is generally arranged through their local brigade. In addition to formal training, volunteers can learn a great deal about their role in CFA through their team members and by getting involved in brigade activities.

CFA is a registered training organisation (RTO) which means that a large number of courses align to national competency standards. The skills and knowledge that volunteers acquire may lead to nationally-recognised qualifications.

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Application Process

How do I apply to volunteer?

You apply online by filling out an expression of interest form.
In the first stage you enter your contact details; and you will receive an email to acknowledge your interest. Within 7 business days you will be sent a link to complete further information.

Once you have submitted this information we will put you in touch with your local brigade so you can find out if they are recruiting, what's involved and see if there is a role suited to you. Expressing your interest does not guarantee any positions will be available.

Some brigades also run information sessions for people interested in volunteering. 

When are volunteers recruited?

All brigades are different and recruit volunteers when necessary for them.

Your local brigade may look for new volunteers year-round, or may have a waiting list for new volunteers to join. They may be recruiting for particular needs – such as secretaries or new firefighters who can respond at specific times.

Recruitment of new volunteers may be slowed or even put on hold during fire seasons.

What documentation will I need to provide before I join?

After you have been in contact with your local brigade and proceed to the application stage, the following paperwork is required and will be provided to you:

  • Proof of identification to accompany a Fit2Work form (police check),
  • completed medical report form. If you have any existing medical conditions, this must include a doctor’s assessment,
  • completed application form,
  • Working with Children's Check (recommended), and parental Consent Form for any volunteers under 18

Will I need a working with children or police check?

All new volunteers are required to complete a National Police Check through Fit2Work.
It is preferred that all volunteers hold a current Working with Children’s Check. It is a requirement to have a WWCC to undertake roles that interact with young people, which may include Junior Leaders, Fire Safe Kids presenters and schools programs.

You will be provided with the necessary paperwork.

Will I need to sit an interview before I join?

Each brigade handles their recruitment process slightly differently. Some brigades conduct a formal interview before signing up new volunteers, when others have a more casual chat.

This is to ensure the brigade is a right fit for you and you are a right fit for what they are looking for.

I haven’t been contacted about my interest in volunteering, should I submit another form?

It is not necessary to submit a second form if you have already submitted one. Some brigades only meet once a month and new potentially members need to be discussed at brigade meetings which can delay the process.

If you haven't heard anything for a couple months, you may like to contact your relevant district's HQ. Your local brigade may also be able to let you know if they are recruiting or not.

How long will the process take to become a volunteer?

After you express your interest online, it could take a few months before you are accepted into a brigade. Some brigades only meet once a month and new applications need to be reviewed and voted on at brigade meetings.

Example of a recruitment process: (this can vary slightly depending on the brigade)

  1. Member expression of interest are reviewed
  2. Successful members invited to an info night and/or interview
  3. Successful members complete and provide an application, medical report, ID and Fit2Work (police check)
  4. Paperwork submitted to the district office for processing  
  5. Some aspect of the application might need further clarification
  6. Review of complete application
  7. Successful members start a 6 month probation period
  8. CFA induction

First training course is scheduled (this can be several months later and training itself can take up to 3-6 months). No incidents can be attended until you have completed all training.

What happens if I sign up but then find out it is not for me?

Best is to ask as many questions as possible before you start to ensure you have a clear view of what volunteering for the brigade is like.

The first six months with CFA is a probationary period. Objectives of the probation period are to:

  • establish a relationship between the individual and the brigade
  • allow new members to decide if the brigade/CFA is the right fit for them
  • confirm that a person will be a suitable member
  • establish basic skills, knowledge and CFA awareness
  • provide a period in which the individual’s progress is monitored and progressive feedback is received.

At any time during probation period, a member on probation can resign.

Although there is no obligation to volunteer with CFA for a minimum period of time, we prefer to build our volunteers’ capability over a longer period of time by providing ongoing training and leadership development.

In some occasions shorter project opportunities are provided.

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Costs and Compensation

What will it cost to become a volunteer of CFA?

Realistically unfortunately there is a cost involved, this is mainly through your time given, travel to and from the station, and potentially brigade issued uniforms and phone and internet usage. If you are a firefighter it is possible you will miss times with your family such as Christmas and birthdays due to incidents.

All training and equipment is provided by CFA as needed.

What compensation is payable to CFA Volunteers who are injured?

CFA provides comprehensive insurance cover for medical, loss of wages and property damage.

Do I have to provide my own uniform?

No, any required protective equipment or clothing is provided.
Some brigades have their own brigade casual attire/uniforms which you have the option to buy.

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Health & Wellbeing

Are there any health restrictions? Asthma etc.

CFA's primary concern is for the safety and health of its Volunteers. Brigades are responsible for ensuring that Volunteers perform their role in a safe manner. CFA needs to know if a prospective volunteer has a condition which may place limitations on their role in the brigade.

All new recruits are required to complete a medical form and get doctor’s assessment in the case of any existing medical conditions.

When CFA is aware of any limitations or restrictions that a person has, the brigade can then avoid placing the volunteer in an environment that is unsuited to their health. As such, you may have to undertake a medical assessment.

What wellbeing support is available to volunteers?

CFA provides a range of services to support volunteers and their families in managing their mental health, including peer support, psychologists/counsellors and chaplains. These services are available to both CFA members and their immediate family for matters of a personal nature and matters relating to critical incidents. Welfare services are short term in nature.

Volunteers, staff and their families can call the CFA wellbeing support line anytime on 1800 959 232.

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Juniors

What ages is the juniors program for?

The Juniors program is run for 11 to 15-year olds.

16 and 17-year olds can volunteer as senior CFA volunteers, with some restrictions, if they have parental consent.

Although encouraged there is no requirement for junior members to go on to become senior volunteers after they turn 16 years old.

Over 230 brigades run junior programs, check this map to find your closest brigade.

Do Junior Members have to be registered in their local area?

There is no requirement for junior members to live in or near the brigade area; a potential Junior Member can apply at any endorsed Junior Brigade.

Can Junior Members attend other Junior Brigades?

Yes a Junior Member can attend activities at any endorsed Junior Brigade, as long as

  • they have completed a Parent/Guardian Consent Form and
  • the activities are being supervised by a minimum of two Endorsed Junior Leaders.

Can Junior Members attend brigade training?

Juniors can attend brigade training if it is an official activity and their attendance is approved. This usually occurs when Juniors are around 15 and progressing towards becoming senior volunteers. The brigade might want them to start doing joint activities to ease the transition or give them a taste of what the training might be like.

Junior Members should not ‘hang out’ at the brigade or be present on any occasions without being in the company of their Junior Leaders, or a parent/adult guardian.

Who are Junior Members supervised by?

CFA's Junior Brigades are run by Junior Leaders who are CFA Volunteers.

Junior activities are required to be supervised by a minimum of 2 endorsed Junior Leaders at all times.  To become an endorsed Junior Leader, volunteers must receive the endorsement of the Brigade Management Teams as well as hold a valid Working with Children’s Check.

At the establishment of each Junior Brigade, Junior Leaders receive an induction session after which there are a number of training and development opportunities available to them. CFA conducts an annual review to ensure that our Junior Leaders continue to meet compliance checks.

Our Junior Leaders come from a range of professions from teachers to plumbers to lawyers to hairdressers but all share a common passion for ensuring young people are at the heart of CFA’s future.

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Other

Can I be a Volunteer only for major bushfires?

Brigades need volunteers who are able to provide support and respond to incidents throughout the year, not just in times of major fires. Some brigades allow seasonal volunteering to assist during their fire season.

All firefighters (operational volunteers) are required to be fully trained before attending any incidents.

What benefits will there be for me?

CFA Volunteers develop leadership and management capabilities, meet new friends, learn new skills, achieve personal goals, put something back into the community and often involve their whole family in CFA activities.

Other benefits include:

  • Valuable work and personal experience in the community
  • A sense of achievement
  • Skill development that can be used in other areas of your life

Access to member support services, including counselling and a rewards/benefits program.

Can I join multiple brigades?

No, you can only be a volunteer at one brigade. It may be possible to transfer between brigades if you move house but you will need to go through the same process as new volunteers. This is to ensure your new brigade is the right fit for you.

Is there a probationary period?

CFA has a probationary period of a minimum of 6 months. In this period you will only require to do CFA induction training.

You may but are not required to do any specific role, including 'minimum skills' training during your probation period.

You won't be able to do any firefighting until you have completed the 'minimum skills' training and have achieved the required competence levels set by your Captain or Officer in charge (OIC).

Are all brigades run by only volunteers?

We have 1217 brigades in total of which 39 are integrated brigades (paid firefighters and volunteers).

Our volunteer brigades are 100% volunteer based and are supported by district staff.

On top of any fire related activities, volunteers do everything from recruitment, to training, managing finances and administration for the brigade.

What is the role of a volunteer in an integrated (combined with paid firefighters) brigades?

Integrated stations include career (paid) firefighters and volunteers. The integrated fire stations typically service large urban centres and house between 4-6 or more emergency vehicles.

Volunteers at an integrated fire station do firefighting roles as well as support (non-operational) volunteer roles just like at CFA brigades run solely by volunteers.

It's best to discuss with your local brigade what roles they have available, regardless of whether it is an integrated brigade or not.

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